Sunny Blossoms | The Ultimate Kindness

“Kindness” by Martha S.

Today’s Kindness blossom came from my pen friend, Martha S. She painted the sunflower [with a nod to the Ukraine] for International Women’s Day/Women’s History Month. It was refreshing to see a card that simply reminded us of kindness. 

If we think about it, it all comes down to that. Doesn’t it? If we were more compassionate and thought as highly of others as we think of ourselves, women’s rights wouldn’t need to be a thing!

I know that sounds simplistic. Social structures/constructions are complex, and for some reason, humans have an almost innate suspicion of those who are not like them; furthermore, in many cultures, men have been conditioned to see women as inferior to them. These attitudes seem to be at the root of all unkindness—even in our “smaller” interpersonal interactions.

I wish I could pinpoint the moment where [some] men decided that women were inferior to men. Some point to Eve’s disobedience in the Garden of Eden or Scripture in general, but the argument is not supported in Scripture. What Scripture does uphold is that we are created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27); we are part of a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9); and God desires an abundant life for all of us (John 10:10b). And, the best part–His mercy, grace, and salvation are available to all!

That is the ultimate kindness. 

Seven Favorites from World Watercolor Month | Magnolias and Faith

Watercolor 20-2022

World Watercolor Month 2022, Day 20 (July 20, 2022)

Always pray
to have eyes that
see the best in people,
a heart that forgives the worst,
a mind that forgets the bad,
and a heart that never loses faith
in God


The words are from a plaque given to all University employees [this week] by the chaplains to display in our offices–a daily reminder to pay attention, know that everyone has a story, and exercise compassion.

Small Acts, Big Impact

Christine B.

“Peace” by Christine B.

Hello December!

Classes are over. Grades are in. I am happy for the quiet office, slower pace, and for time to give attention to things simmering on the back burner. More importantly, I am excited to have time to focus on the holidays and to participate in meaningful challenges like Action for Happiness’ Do Good December (DGD), which encourages small acts of kindness.  I first heard of DGD two years ago, and am eager to participate again this year.

dec_2021

This morning, my friend Christine sent a message with a Nikki Banas’ quote (below) on the impact of our small acts of kindness. Her message solidified my plan to share the kindness calendar with readers today.

You never know the true impact you have on those around you. You never know how much someone needed that smile you gave them. You never know how much your kindness turned someone else’s entire life around. You never know how much someone needed that long hug or deep talk. So don’t wait to be kind. Don’t wait for someone else to be kind first. Don’t wait for better circumstances or for someone to change. Just be kind, because you never know how much someone needs it. —Nikki Banas

Be sure to download the calendar and do one small act of kindness every day. Your act might make a huge difference in someone’s life.


About the Image: The gorgeous artwork above is the work of Christine B. It reminds me of where I’d love to be–peacefully sitting on a beach, watching the ocean and a golden sunset (or sunrise). Christine sent this with sunflowers for my birthday. Her loving act of sharing her creativity has made a significant difference in my life. ❤ [The piece was made with alcohol ink, a fine-point black Sharpie, and oil pens].

Tired like Langston

“Langston,” Lynita Solomon. Used by Permission of the Artist

Yesterday, I read a Facebook post by a woman who denigrated Vice President Kamala Harris for no good reason. The woman asserted that Harris is not a role model and no one should have their daughters look up to her.

The post and responses were hateful and extremely disrespectful. I can’t figure out how people can stir up so much hatred for a person they don’t know just because they don’t agree with the person’s policies or positions on certain issues.

Beyond this illogic, some made lewd remarks and [like the original poster] claimed Harris did “anything” to reach the VP position. The whole thing was disturbing. And to make matters worse, the post was “liked” thousands of times and shared more than 17,000 times!

The comments played into the hypersexualized view of Black women that was written into the narrative of American history to cover the multitude of white men’s violations against Black women’s bodies and personhood. The narrative is hurtful and just as dangerous as the one that gets Black men and women shot for just breathing.

Like the speaker in Langston Hughes’s poem, I’m so tired.

Tired
Langston Hughes

I am so tired of waiting.

Aren’t you,
for the world to become good
and beautiful and kind?
Let us take a knife
and cut the world in two —
and see what worms are eating
at the rind.

About the Image: The art above is the work of graphic illustrator, Lynita “Elle” Solomon. She posted the image on Instagram in honor of the day Langston Hughes was born, 119 years ago. Lynita has an amazing way of presenting her subjects “without faces,” but we know exactly who they are anyway. You can see more of her work by clicking the image above.

Believe You Can…

Love Notes 30.2 offered another timely prompt, and my partner, Nicole delivered well.  In response to the prompt, “Believe you can,” she wrote:

Believe you can…

…Create inner peace as a form of success.
…Hand off the thing that has been weighing you down. It was never your weight to carry.
…Be at peace knowing you made the best decision in that moment.
…Be the heroine of your journey.
…Live your personal life assignment. It is greater than thoughts that waste your time and bring you down or create doubt.

She wrote it all inside the sweet Carlton card above. Although I received the card a week ago (?), I did not really read it till moments ago after I seized a moment to sit in silence in my office. The delay was well-timed; I needed the words today. Maybe, you need them too…

Have joy!

Self-Kindness and the (Un)Written Plan

Interior of the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Washington, DC. Digitally altered, of course.

The publicly announced commitments to change and other goals [seem to] have increased significantly for 2020, perhaps, because most perceive the new year as the beginning rather than the end of a decade.

This morning, I had a brief discussion with Paula, an inspirational writer friend, following her (re)posting of a devotional thought she wrote at the beginning of 2018. She commented in our discussion that not much had changed in two years.

That gave me pause for two reasons: (1) From my point of view Paula has made serious strides in recent years. And (2) when I considered what I’d hoped to accomplish the past several years, I confronted the reality that I missed the mark many times, in many ways.

But before I allowed myself to sit in a stew of self-pity and regret, I decided to make a list of all the things I have accomplished over the decade. Sufficiently sated, I stopped at the end of the first long page–with plans to “complete” the list and refer to it whenever feelings of failure and defeat surface.

While writing the list, I focused on the things others can see, things I can list on my curriculum vitae or include in a professional biography. However, there are so many victories, so many successes that would not be included on a CV or in a bio.

By the grace of God, I’ve done some hard things, faced and overcome difficult obstacles. Things that took time. Energy. And left scars. Things no one else will see. Things most will never know. Things for which I will never be publicly honored, recognized, or applauded. Things that firmed up my soul and impacted the lives of others in ways I may never know.

I learned long ago my value does not come from a list of successes (or failures), a title, a bank account, or even the people around me. I also learned what I achieve through and for the Most High is far more critical than anything I do for myself.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s important to make plans and act on them, but I invite you to do so with a little more perspective and self-kindness. Even if you don’t check everything off [the probably overly ambitious] list within the time frame expected, take into consideration the ways in which you slay and conquer that aren’t written into the plan.

Happy 2020!

#DoGoodDecember: Do Your Little Bit

Do your little bit of good where you are; those little bits together overwhelm the world.  –Desmond Tutu

I was overjoyed to open Facebook and find the Kindness Calendar at the top of my newsfeed–posted by Debra D, one of my Love Notes pals. Kindness is the perfect way to end the year and I plan to “do [my] little bit of good where [I am].”

Will you join me?

Click the image or the link above to view and download the calendar. If you need a little motivation, check out one (or more) of my blog posts on the subject. Who knew I had so many?

Have a kind week!

I.M.A.G.I.N.E.

“From Mother’s Garden.” Photo by Christine B.

Yesterday, our university president, Dr. Les, began a day-long meeting with inviting faculty and staff to think about those with whom we work who have gone out of the way, demonstrated genuine care, and made a positive impact on our lives during the “just completed” academic year. After contemplation, six were selected to share their stories and express gratitude to those individuals. This was an excellent move, and I was heartened after hearing each story.

It’s good to know that people see us as living, breathing, complex beings and not just a cog in the machinery. Furthermore, it’s good to know that we are not alone and there are always those who are willing to “take the burden” or lift us up with words and deeds.

This “lifting” must have been Peggy’s motivation when she wrote Love Notes 27, Prompt 2. The prompt was “Imagine,” and she used each letter of the word to craft seven perfect affirmations:

I think you are magic
My dreams for you are in technicolor
A light inside you shines so bright
Good things are rushing towards you
I believe in you
Never stop exploring your soul
Everything good and beautiful is meant for you

I receive with gratitude each statement as a perfect gift to carry–to bless and inspire others.

What do you imagine for others in your life? How do you help them move from imagination to practice/reality?


About the Image: Today’s purple flowers were shot by another Love Noter, my penfriend Christine B. It was the card she sent for International Women’s Month. The flowers are from her mother’s garden, sent to honor me and the memory of my sister Lori. Hugs, Christine.

Only Kindness: “It Is I You Have Been Looking For”

“Sister Sunflowers,” Card made by Debra D.

I had a hurtful unkindness earlier this week, a cruel one if I look at it closely. Emotionally exhausted and just plain weary of all the unkindnesses of life,  I was on the verge of giving in to the hurt and letting it win. But the God who heals me reminded me of all the beautiful people who shower me with love and kindness every.single.day.

My kindness jar truly overflows.

It’s strange, I guess, but I should be grateful for the unkindness. Such seemingly unnecessary hurts are indeed necessary because they reinforce the importance of compassion and deepen the experience with kindness. 

One of my favorite “kindness” poems, written by Naomi Shihab Nye, underscores the work that must be done before we “know what kindness really is.”  Though the initial landscape is bleak, eventually, we’ll learn to recognize in kindness the friend or shadow who accompanies us everywhere.

 

Kindness by Naomi Shihab Nye
.
Before you know what kindness really is

you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken

will stare out the window forever.
.
Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,

you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans

and the simple breath that kept him alive.
.
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,

you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing. 
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.

Note about the image: One of my Love Notes friends, Debra D, kindly sent the card above to me as a “just because.” She filled the card with sheets of bright sunflower stickers. Through the card she honors my love for sunflowers and my relationship with my sister Lori. Isn’t there a purple sunflower somewhere? Debra makes the sweetest cards with markers, stickers, stamps, and various types of paper. You can find more of her “creative doings” on her blog, Meticulosity.

You can read about Nye’s experience which led to the poem in an interview here: The Incomparable Naomi Shihab Nye on Kindness.